The Rings of Jupiter

I remember being fascinated as a young boy that the planet Saturn possessed a ring system. As I grew up through high school and even into college, that fascination remained with me. As I look back now, I realize it never occurred to me and perhaps to no one else, that we would one day use the phrase 'The Rings of Jupiter'! How times have changed. The discovery that other planets have rings should be the ultimate lesson for us in expecting the unexpected, especially in astronomy!

Jupiter was not the first planet after Saturn to enter the family of ringed planets. That honor actually fell to the planet Uranus when, on March 10, 1977 teams led by James L. Elliot and Robert L. Mills observed the stellar occultation of the star SAO 158687 by Uranus. An analysis of the premature, unexpected dip in brightness of the star led to the conclusion that Uranus possessed rings. Subsequent to this discovery, q the Voyager 1 spacecraft confirmed the existence of rings around Jupiter in March

^ 1979 [474]. The Uranus rings were imaged for the first time when Voyager 2 encoun-

C ^ tered the planet. Finally, in Voyager 2 images taken on August 11, 1989 ring arcs

.12 were seen orbiting the planet Neptune. Where previous occultation observations of Neptune had failed to be conclusive, Voyager images confirmed the existence of Neptune's rings [475]. Thus, all four gas giant planets were found to have rings, and heat each planet's rings were found to be different from that of the others.

oo Jupiter's rings are organized into three main components; a cloud-like halo, a main ring, and a faint, gossamer ring [476] (Fig. 6.48). Jupiter's rings are optically thin, and contain large numbers of dust-sized particles [477]. Because of the way

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